United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
William W. Caldwell United States District Judge.
se plaintiff, Nicodemo DiPietro, an inmate at the state
correctional institution in Somerset, Pennsylvania, filed an
amended complaint in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action.
Plaintiff has named the Pennsylvania Department of
Corrections (DOC) as a defendant along with thirteen DOC
employees. We have before us Defendants' motion for
judgment on the pleadings.
Plaintiff alleges that defendant, Daniel Meinert, an O.S.I.
investigator, falsely labeled Plaintiff an informant or
“rat” because Plaintiff refused Meinert's
attempts to make him a real informant. Meinert then had
Plaintiff transferred to a prison where Plaintiff had many
enemies with the intent of having Plaintiff assaulted or
killed for being an informant. The remaining defendants have
been sued because Plaintiff alleges he contacted them, or
filed grievances that they handled, about Meinert's
actions, but they did not do anything to prevent Meinert from
carrying out his plan.
moving for judgment on the pleadings, Defendants contend that
they are all entitled to dismissal of any First Amendment
retaliation claim in the amended complaint and the Fourteenth
Amendment claim. Defendants also argue that certain of them
are entitled to dismissal because they lack personal
involvement in the actions taken against him.
Standard of Review
considering Defendants' motion for judgment on the
pleadings under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). Since the motion argues that
the amended complaint fails to state a claim, we review it
under the standard used for motions to dismiss under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Turbe v. Gov't of Virgin
Islands, 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991); Bangura
v. City of Philadelphia, 338 Fed.Appx. 261, 264 (3d Cir.
12(b)(6) authorizes dismissal of a complaint for
“failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted.” Under Rule 12(b)(6), we must “accept
all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine
whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the
plaintiff may be entitled to relief.” Fowler v.
UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009)(quoting
Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231
(3d Cir. 2008)). While a complaint need only contain “a
short and plain statement of the claim, ” Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2), and detailed factual allegations are not required,
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555,
127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), a complaint
must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570.
“The plausibility standard is not akin to a
‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more
than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)(quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[L]abels and
conclusions” are not enough, and a court
“‘is not bound to accept as true a legal
conclusion couched as a factual allegation. Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555 (quoted case omitted).
following is the background to this litigation, as Plaintiff
alleges it. On or about February 13, 2014, O.S.I.
investigator, defendant Daniel Meinert, visited Plaintiff,
attempting to make him an informant. (Doc. 16, Am. Compl.
¶ 17). “Plaintiff refused and Meinert
threatened” Plaintiff “with bodily injury . . .
“saying he was going to inform prisoners and the Philly
Mob that Plaintiff was an informant/rat.” (Id.
¶ 18). On February 14, 2014, “Meinert facilitated
Plaintiff's transfer to SCI-Rockview, ” knowing
“Plaintiff had enemies there in an attempt to have
Plaintiff assaulted and/or killed as an informant.”
(Id. ¶ 19).
Plaintiff got to SCI-Rockview, he “filed grievances and
informed prison officials: Deputy Tice; Cpt. Churner; &
Lt. Vance of Meinert's threats & promise to get
Plaintiff injured/killed & permanently labeling Plaintiff
an informant placing Plaintiff's life in constant
danger.” (Id. ¶ 20). “Deputy Tice;
Cpt. Churner; & Lt. Vance deliberately refused to take
actions to protect Plaintiff by prohibiting Meinert's
retaliation.” (Id. ¶ 21). Instead,
“Dept. Tice; Capt. Churner & Lt. Vance deliberately
communicated with Meinert and collaborated with Meinert by
placing Plaintiff @ SCI-Rockview with Plaintiff's well
known enemies inclusive of labeling him an informant.”
(Id. ¶ 22).
about April 23, 2014, “Plaintiff notified employee
Rackovan via grievance #507034 stating Meinert and prison
officials deliberately sent Plaintiff to SCI Rockview per
Meinert's instruction so Plaintiff's enemies would
attack Him.” (Id. ¶ 23). “Rackovan
deliberately refused to take actions to abate Plaintiff's
dangerous situation.” (Id. ¶ 24).
about May 5, 2014, “Plaintiff gave notification
to” Glunt, Rcokview's superintendent, “that
Plaintiff's life was in danger.” (Id.
¶ 25). “Supt. Glunt communicated with Meinert
& refused to assist Plaintiff per Meinert's
request.” (Id. ¶ 26).
about May 6, 2014, “inmate Khalil Brown heard Sgt.
Crawford say he's been instructed to search (toss
up/harass) Plaintiff's cell in retaliation for Plaintiff
filing a grievance about Meinert's threat, rat label
& for contacting Supt. Glunt; Dept. Tice' Capt.
Churner & Lt. Vance.” (Id. ¶ 27).
about May 8, 2014, “Plaintiff contacted employee Perry
& notified him of the bodily danger Meinert &
Rockview prison officials [had] placed him in.”
(Id. ¶ 28). “As well as the retaliation
cell search Plaintiff's witness told him about.”
(Id. ¶ 29). “[E]mployee Perry was
contacted by Meinert; Supt. Glunt & Dept. Tice” and
was “told then not to get involved” as Plaintiff
would be gone soon, meaning dead, by way “of elements
inside the prison.” (Id. ¶ 30).
about May 17, 2014, “Plaintiff contacted employee Perry
again about prison officials constant cell
searching/harassment, prison officials deliberate transfers
to prison with enemies who want to kill Plaintiff in hopes it
happens, and all the due process violations.”
(Id. ¶ 31). “Employee Perry refused to
protect Plaintiff's health/safety and upon belief and
information, Perry was instructed to do this between”
February 14, 2014, and February 15, 2015. (Id.
about May 24, 2014, “Plaintiff contacted employee
Varner & notified her of Meinert's threats &
current actions to retaliate, harass, label Plaintiff a rat
& get him killed.” (Id. ¶ 33).
“[E]mployee Varner communicated with SCI Rockview
prison officials named in complaint & colluded with their
actions & refused to take measures to protect
Plaintiff's life.” (Id. ¶ 34).
about June 6, 2014 to June 12, 2014, “Plaintiff
notified Rackovan; Perry and other prison officials again to
document their actions to assist Meinert in getting
Plaintiff's life & name put on the Philly Mob hit
list ..... (Id. ¶ 35).
about June 11, 2014, “an inmate . . . transferred to
SCI Rockview & gave Plaintiff a witness account of
Meinert's & C.D. Wood's actions of searching
other inmates cells [at] Fayette to anger the inmates &
telling the inmates who[se] cells were searched that their
informant, Plaintiff was the reason the inmates are getting
searched.” (Id. ¶ 36). “This
searching cell action and publicly saying it was Plaintiff,
has put a ‘Rat' label on Plaintiff's head &
marked him for death.” (Id. ¶ 37).
about June 12, 2014, “Plaintiff filed a grievance about
Meinert's instructions and actions to cell searches of
other inmates to endanger Plaintiff's life.”
(Id. ¶ 38). “Meinart in retaliation for
Plaintiff's grievance circa June 13, 2014, communicated
certain instructions to prison officials to relocate
Plaintiff to SCI Greene where multiple inmates who[ ] wanted
to kill Plaintiff were housed.” (Id. ¶
July of 2014 to Nov. 2014 Meinert communicated instructions
via electronic means to stop Plaintiff's commissary
inclusive of cutting off cable he has been purchasing for
well over 10 years ..... ” (Id. ¶ 40).
August 13, 2014, “Plaintiff notified employee Smeal, a
new employee of the danger Meinert & prison officials
have put Him in & of the harassment, retaliation &
rat labeling in hopes for help.” (Id. ¶
“Circa August 2014 to Sept 2014 . . . Smeal contacted
Meinert and Rockview prison ...